The Holidays are almost upon us and that means travel. Travel also brings with it long waiting-lines for security checks and boarding at airports. Since many people travel during the Holidays, airports and other vacation places are inundated with long queues. So how do you avoid these long waiting lines and improve the quality of your trips? Here are some tips and easy ways to avoid long airport wait times:
1. Choose off-peak hour flights
If you have the flexibility, get ahead of the crowds by selecting off-peak hour flights. These include early morning or late evening flights on Saturdays. These flights are less popular with travelers and that means fewer people in the checking-in lines.
2. Use online and mobile check-in services
Most airlines provide online and mobile-app check-ins to ameliorate the checking-in process. While services may differ from airline to airline, your Smartphone or laptop can help you check in even up to 24 hours prior to departure. With these services, you also get to choose a good seat on the flight. This can considerably reduce your waiting times in checking in lines. Once you come to the airport, all you need to do is handover the luggage and get through the security lines.
3. Print out the boarding pass at home
We cannot absolutely guarantee shorter wait times with this tip, but if you print your boarding pass at home (as many airlines permit you to do) you can certainly help your odds. Please note that many a passenger who has paid the lowest price for their ticket, irrespective of whether s/he has a boarding pass printed at home, can still be bumped by the airline if the airline deems it fit. But it won’t hurt to have a boarding pass printed.
4. Use the airline’s toll-free number
Key in and keep your airline’s toll-free number on your phone and save the number. If the airline is overbooked and bumps you off, you can quickly call the saved number to get another seat on another flight, if your flight is canceled. The time saved in seconds can make a huge difference!
5. Drop off and check in your bags the day before
Yes, this service does exist and many airlines allow you to drop off and check-in your luggage 24 hours prior to departure. This cool tip is especially useful during the Holidays. You can have a convenient, quiet check in the evening before the flight and easily avoid long wait times in the luggage drop-off lines.
6. Know where to sleep!
When you have long layovers in a trans-Atlantic flight, you can use the Sleeping In Airports website that details the best sleeping areas in all major airports around the world. Naturally, if you have more than 10 hours layover, you can take the 1-day visa and see the city. But the Sleeping In Airports website shows you quiet nooks and crannies around airports to help you sleep restfully. For example, it tells you which gates in a major airport have seats without arm-rests so you can comfortably lie in-between and rest. You can also share your own experiences and sleeping tips to help fellow travelers, on the site.
7. Bring reading material….and snacks!
This one is a no-brainer! For long wait times, you must carry some entertainment like reading material or gaming apps on your phone to pass the time. Most often, travelers follow the advice of arriving early at the airport, breeze-in through security only to find that they have hours until boarding. So if you are an avid reader, now is the time to catch up on that bestselling thriller you hadn’t had time to read. And don’t forget to bring the tastiest sandwich of which your kitchen is capable; irrespective of whether or not your airline serves food.
8. Dress nice
It is a good idea to wear decent clothes and not sweatpants or grubby T-shirts when traveling by air. It is no secret that shabbily dressed people are more likely to be searched more thoroughly at airports than those dressed in suits and dresses.
9. Make sure your hand-luggage is easy to search
We all know what that means! Organize your carry-on luggage so well that the security personnel can easily sift through it while checking it. Make sure that your bag isn’t so tightly packed that it overflows. Stow odds and ends and knick-knacks in the checked-in luggage. Avoid any unfamiliar looking equipment in the carry-on luggage that looks intimidating and warrants a more thorough check from the personnel.
10. Know TSA regulations
Always be polite and smile at the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) personnel. Cooperate and chances are that you will breeze through check-in. Use TSA approved locks or better still, leave your luggage unlocked. Always know what items are prohibited by the TSA.
11. Plan ahead
Most airports want you to remove your coat, jacket, watches, jewelry, and other metal/electronic stuff. So plan ahead. Place these items in transparent pouches or Ziploc bags. Make sure that you keep your laptop out in another tray. Place your mobile devices, tablets, or e-readers in the tray as well. Separate all liquids and aerosols and place them in transparent bags.
12. Apply for TSA Pre and Global Entry approval
This is the best way to avoid long wait times at airports for frequent fliers. Both the TSA Pre and Global Entry are a part of the Department’s risk-based security program that allows them to focus on high-risk passengers and offer a better travel experience to low-risk passengers. There is a fee for these approvals. You can also apply for CLEARME membership that is available at most airports. CLEAR members get to zip to the front of the security line. Call your airline or check out their website for details.
13. Consider upgrading to first class
If you have the budget, always fly first class as you get priority boarding. You could also consider becoming a member of the airline’s frequent flyer programs; it is worth it if you travel a lot. This is especially handy in larger airports.
14. Use your bank credit card for flight upgrades
Use a credit card that allows you to accumulate miles on it. All you need to do is make all your purchases on the card so you keep accumulating points. Once you reach certain points, you can accumulate miles for flights and buy tickets to first class.
15. Always make use of priority boarding..if you have it
When you board late, you have to wait longer in line inside the plane and may not even have space left in overhead bins to stow away cabin bags. So always use priority boarding offered by most airlines. Pregnant, elderly, disabled, and people with very young children are allowed priority boarding in addition to first-class travelers. If you have the elite status for that airline too, you can avail priority boarding by presenting yourself early at the gate. This can considerably shorten your waiting time at airports.